Origins of Phrases and Popular Expressions, Please share yours as well.
August 3, 2007 4:35am CST
There are so many origins of phrases that started out long ago that would surprise many people. I'm starting this thread so we can each share the ones we know about, because I find it very interesting and often comical. I'll start: "Carrying a bride over the Thresh-hold": This phrase started in the medieval period. During those times houses were filled with thresh being hay and such on the floors to serve as insulation. There was a block of wood going across the bottom of the doors called a thresh-hold to keep the thresh inside the house when the door was opened so it would not blow away. "Upper Crust of Society": This came from about the same time period as the one above. Bread has always been a staple of the diet. Different parts of the bread were used by and sold to people of different social status. The upper crust was served to the rich, and offten given to honored guests. The middle part went to the majority of the people, and the bottom crust went to the very poor. "Bless you" or "Guzentite" when someone sneezes: This dates back along time as well. When peeple sneezed, it was believed that their hearts stopped for an instant and at this time the Devil could possess a person. It originated in Germany (gazuentite) and spread through the rest of Europe. The "Bless You" phrase was believed to cast the devil out. Having Bridesmades at a wedding: Again evil spirits played a huge part in this one. It was believed that they would try to possess or kidnap a viriginal bride. Bridesmades were originally at the weddings to confuse the spirits so they wouldn't know who was the real bride. Those are a few that came to my mind, please share the ones you know.
4 Aug 07
Hello filmbuff!:-) So good to see you again! It's a very interesting topic. I find that proper usage of language having perspective of origins is a rare thing and that makes things sometimes funny, to say the least. Even in my mother tongue, majority of people do not know the origins of words and phrases and sometimes they are used out of it's original context, even opposite, because of some twist at some point in history either because of influence of some class, mistranslation from other language or a specific event or a changed use by a popular or authoritative person. I love to study origins and here are some of mine. To call a spade a spade: The origin comes from some time in BC, from Greek phrase "to call a fig a fig, a trough a trough". It was a sexu*l allusion as it can be seen from terms. It basically meant 'to use plain or crude language'. The original word for trough (bowl) was mistranslated into Latin and same was adopted into English. You would be knowing better than me that usage of 'spade' in expression has a negative connotation as being racially sensitive whereas original expression was not. Blood is thicker than water: Though it's present meaning are along the lines that family relations are stronger and greater than any other relations but it's origin is believed to be opposite of the current usage. It is said that it originated from biblical times in middle east as well as in Arabic from the same time. People used to have customs of blood rituals to make covenants and it is explained by the expression 'The blood of the covenant is stronger than the water of the womb'. So we see that the origins have opposite meaning of the current usage of the term. Who's your daddy?: which generally means that I am controlling you. It's other meaning is an insult as to questioning a person's parentage, but it is believed not to have evolved from this origin of meaning. It is most probably underworld term which started come into usage in late 1800s. It has some sexu*al connotation too. The exception proves the rule: Haha! this is very interesting. In English, it is kind of paradoxical as to say that existence of exception is a proof that the rule exists. It's again a mistreated and wrongly adopted expression from Latin which was something "exception establishes the rule" which was meant to say that by studying exceptions we can make better rules who are better adapted to all situation so as to avoid exceptions. But, when this expression was brought to English, it's meanings were twisted:-) Well these are few of my humble studies, I have more but it's already too long, as always!:-)
• United States
4 Aug 07
Great discussion, filmbuff! One that comes to my mind is "jumping the broomstick." This was the phrase used when a couple married back in slavery times. The couple would hold hands and jump over the broomstick. They were then considered to be married. Though it was used a lot when I was young, it has been relegated to the trash heap of bygone days. I recently ran across it when I was reading a news article about a high profile couple who had used this in their wedding ceremony.
• United States
4 Aug 07
I heard one the other day that I thought was interesting. It was based on the old California Gold Rush and panning for gold. If you didn't "pan out" it meant your pan came out without any gold in it. Today we use the phrase as if something didn't turn out the way you hoped... I went for the interview but the job didn't pan out.